Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 2: Drop Dead Conditions

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 2: Drop Dead Conditions

In case you missed it…

Ventura Harbor. 9pm, September 14th.

ME: “How does the weather look?”
CAPT. FORREST: “Dogshit.”

He wondered whether perhaps I wanted to postpone the swim to another day. “What are your ‘drop dead’ conditions?” he asked. “It’s blowing 10 knots right here [i.e., in the harbor]. It’ll be worse out there.”

Here lay the dilemma: My crew and observer were here now. Dave and Rob drove down from SLO; Mark from SB (where he has two kids under the age of 3); Cathy from SF. We could, theoretically, delay for 24 hours – Cathy didn’t go home ’til Monday. But it would suck. I had already dragged these people out here in the middle of the night. Now I was going to send them all home (or to a hotel) and say we’ll try again tomorrow? Ugh.

Not to mention, the film guys were already on their way over to the island on a sail boat from Santa Barbara (a 4.5-hour trip). Would I call them and tell them to turn around?…

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Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 1: Prologue

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 1: Prologue

Was it inevitable?

There the island sits, tauntingly, every time I wade into the ocean. It dominates the southern horizon - as prominent a feature of the Santa Barbara landscape as chaparral-covered mountains, tile roofs, and beach volleyball. On clear winter days it’s a textured, multi-hued shadow. On hazy summer days it’s just a faint, misty outline. In the depth of June Gloom it disappears from view entirely – but I know it’s there, somewhere.

The shadow is Santa Cruz Island – largest of the eight Channel Islands, 19 statute miles offshore from Oxnard, the closest part of mainland California.

Looking out at Santa Cruz Island from the mountains above Goleta. New Year’s Day 2012. Photo by Vanessa.

The Impetus

A few months ago two local filmmakers asked: Would I be interested in being filmed for a documentary about marathon swimming in the Channel Islands? Would I help shed some light on this odd global subculture of people who swim across 3,000-foot deep ocean channels in the dead of night wearing nothing but a speedo, cap, and goggles?…

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Two days and two nights on a boat: Observing Catalina and Santa Barbara Channel swims

Two days and two nights on a boat: Observing Catalina and Santa Barbara Channel swims

In the past couple weeks I’ve had the honor and pleasure of observing four swims between the Channel Islands and the California mainland: two 12.4-mile crossings from Anacapa Island to Oxnard (sanctioned by the SBCSA), and two 20.1-mile crossings from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes (sanctioned by the CCSF).

Two Channels: Anacapa Island to Oxnard; Catalina Island to Palos Verdes.

Each swim was a remarkable achievement in its own way. From Anacapa, there was a 4:58 crossing (a new record and the first ever under 5 hours) and an 8:58 crossing under conditions which thwarted two 6-person relays on the same day. From Catalina, there was a 13.5-hour crossing and a sub-9 hour crossing (the first ever by a 50+ year old).

Eyes on the swimmer. Photo by Phil White

I’m quite serious about it being an honor to observe these swims. Having swum across each of these channels myself, I know they’re experiences one doesn’t forget – experiences that change a person. I know what it feels like to stand on a beach in the middle of the night, look out across that black expanse of water and wonder, “How will I possibly get to the other side?” I know what it feels like to give oneself up to the Channel – and hope it looks upon you favorably.…

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Santa Cruz Island swim (the making of…)

Santa Cruz Island swim (the making of…)

I haven’t mentioned it on this site yet (or at least, the nature of my connection with it), but my recent Santa Cruz Island swim will be a subject of an upcoming independent documentary film, DRIVEN.

You will hear more about the film in the coming months. For now, I want to alert readers to the official website – www.marathonswimmovie.com – which includes a page for recent production updates. The most recent update is worth reproducing here:

Last Friday was touch and go as we prepared to film Evan’s Santa Cruz Island crossing. Last minute film crew boat troubles left us scrambling to find another boat to get us out to the islands to film Evan’s swim. Thanks to Dave S. for coming through for us at the last minute!

We left SB Harbor at 7 PM Friday night and began our 4.5 hour crossing to San Pedro Point by sail boat. 15 – 20 knot winds in 3 – 4 foot seas left some of our crew feeling less than chipper as we made our way across the channel.



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Gone fishin’

Gone fishin’

In the past 15 days I have:

  • Swum across the Maui Channel as part of a relay.
  • Swum across the Maui Channel solo.
  • Observed two SBCSA solo swims from Anacapa Island to Oxnard, one of which was a new record, and the first under 5 hours.
  • Observed two Catalina Channel solo swims.
  • Swum across the Santa Barbara Channel, solo, from Santa Cruz Island to Oxnard.

At some point, I’ll find the time to write it all up. I appreciate your patience.…

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Why independent observation and verification is essential for marathon swimming, Reason #3425

Why independent observation and verification is essential for marathon swimming, Reason #3425

Don’t think for a second that this couldn’t happen, wouldn’t happen, or hasn’t happened, in marathon swimming:

“Marathon Man” (by Mark Singer). In The New Yorker, August 6, 2012.

Related question: If Diana Nyad touching the boat during her feeds hadn’t been captured on video, would we have ever known she was doing this?

Also See: Two Golden Rules of Open Water and/or Marathon Swims (LoneSwimmer)…

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Auau (Maui) Channel solo swim – Preview

Auau (Maui) Channel solo swim – Preview

I was in Maui over Labor Day weekend, and managed not one, not two, but three round-trip crossings to nearby Lanai: as a member of a 6-person team in the Maui Channel Relay; a solo swim along the same course; and a snorkeling outing (via ferry) to otherworldly Hulopoe Beach.

Here’s a short video with some pictures & GoPro footage from the solo swim (click through to Vimeo for HD version):

Maui Channel solo swim from Evan Morrison on Vimeo.…

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Advanced Pool Etiquette for Masters Swimmers, Lesson 2: Personal Space

Advanced Pool Etiquette for Masters Swimmers, Lesson 2: Personal Space

The second in a series of posts on etiquette for organized pool swimming. These lessons are considered “advanced” because they focus on nuances of etiquette specific to organized or coached swim workouts, such as Masters. You should already be familiar with basic pool etiquette for lap swimming, which has been well covered by LoneSwimmerRob Aquatics, and Art Hutchinson.


Courtesy of Swimming Memes

Do you walk right behind people on an otherwise empty street? No? Then don’t do it in the pool, either.

In a short-course pool there are 50 yards (or meters) of physical space to swim in. In a long-course pool there are 100 meters of space. Use it.

In an organized workout, each swimmer is entitled to a certain amount of personal space behind their feet. During an interval training set, the relevant dimension of personal space is actually time – specifically, 10 seconds. By default, leave 10 seconds apart.

An exception to the 10-apart rule is if your lane is so crowded that the lane-leader is nearly finished with the inbound length before the last person has begun the outbound length.…

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What is the speed advantage of a wetsuit?

What is the speed advantage of a wetsuit?

Everyone knows wetsuits help keep you warm in cold water. Lesser known among the general public (but well-known among triathletes) is that wetsuits also make you swim faster! The buoyant neoprene in a wetsuit floats a swimmer higher in the water, decreasing drag and thus increasing swim speed.

But how much faster is a wetsuit? I’ve heard various rules of thumb: 10% speed increase; 4-6 seconds per 100m; 1 minute per kilometer. I’ve also heard various caveats: it depends on the swimmer’s skill (better swimmers benefit less); it depends on the swimmer’s body-type (naturally floaty people benefit less); it depends on the quality of the wetsuit (you get what you pay for); it depends on the fit of the wetsuit; and so forth.

So the answer is: It depends. Because I’m usually disinclined to let things go at “it depends,” I decided to conduct a field experiment. Reef & Run, which I’ve written about previously, provided the perfect laboratory. Almost every Thursday evening between June 21 and yesterday, August 23, I swam one mile in the ocean at East Beach in Santa Barbara.…

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Advanced Pool Etiquette for Masters Swimmers, Lesson 1: Awareness

Advanced Pool Etiquette for Masters Swimmers, Lesson 1: Awareness

The first in a series of posts on etiquette for organized pool swimming. These lessons are considered “advanced” because they focus on nuances of etiquette specific to organized or coached swim workouts, such as Masters. You should already be familiar with basic pool etiquette for lap swimming, which has been well covered by LoneSwimmer, Rob Aquatics, and Art Hutchinson.


As Donal has written, if there’s a “golden rule” of pool etiquette, it’s probably awareness. Be aware of what is going on around you. Who are you sharing a lane with? What are their relative swim speeds? Where are they? Are they swimming back and forth continuously, or are they doing intervals? What strokes are they doing? Is a faster swimmer approaching from behind? Get out of their way. Is someone standing above your lane, preparing to join you? Make room for them. Are you splitting a lane with someone, and a third person is about to join? Get ready to circle-swim.

Awareness is also vitally important in an organized workout. It’s actually easier to be aware in an organized setting, because everyone is (or should be) doing the same thing.…

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